I led a Walk Audit in downtown Sebastopol May 13th. The walk was part of the Sebastopol Walks series. Nine people showed up on a Saturday morning.

The walk began with a presentation at the library about what makes a good walking environment and what to look for on the walk audit. The walk took us from the library, north on Main Street and then up McKinley ending at The Barlow.

We had some great conversations on the way particularly as the traditional Main Street shop district gave way to the 1960’s development pattern of parking lots in front of big box stores. And the parking lane separating the sidewalk from adjacent moving traffic disappeared. You feel much more exposed as a pedestrian on the sidewalk, and the environment lacks any visual interest. You want to move through this section as quickly as possible as compared to the previous block.

And this sad bus stop.

Walking by the Whole Foods strip center is not particularly friendly to pedestrians either.

We ended the walk at The Barlow which has a much better pedestrian environment. And it happened to be the weekend of the Head West market, which happens once a month. It was a great demonstration of what a place can be when it is oriented around people and not cars.

One participant mentioned how she lives downtown and walks everywhere and had never really thought about why she didn’t like walking in some places, particularly on Main Street once the traditional development pattern ends. I thought this made the walk successful in and of itself. I was hoping that people would think more about the environments they walk in and how they can be improved. With that understanding we can become advocates for making things better.

I’m hoping this becomes a regular part of the Sebastopol Walks series and that we can begin to affect real change for our community.